Within the last week, there have been three confirmed cases of Fifth disease, or Fifths disease, at Little Falls Public School, as well as several other unconfirmed cases. The school sent out a notice reminding parents that “up to 20 weeks pregnant is a very critical time for pregnancy with regard to Fifth disease,” and encouraging those with any concerns to contact a doctor.
According to information on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s website (CDC.gov), Fifth disease is a mild rash illness caused by parvovirus B19. The disease is also known as erythema infectiosum. It is more common in children than adults. A person usually gets sick within four to 14 days (sometimes up to 20 days) after getting infected with parvovirus B19. The common childhood illness is caused by a virus found in the respiratory droplets of someone in the middle of an infection and is easily transmitted to others through close physical contact.
The first symptoms of Fifth disease are usually mild and may include fever, runny nose, and headache. These are often followed by a rash on the face or body, which can look like a “slapped face” mark – which is the most recognized feature of Fifth disease. It can vary in intensity and usually goes away in 7 to 10 days, but it can come and go for several weeks. Adults with Fifth disease may also experience pain and swelling in their joints. The joint pain usually lasts one to three weeks, but it can last for months or longer. It usually goes away without any long-term problems.
Usually, kids who’ve been infected with the virus that causes Fifth disease become immune to it and won’t become infected again.
There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent parvovirus B19 infection, but you can reduce your chance of being infected or infecting others by washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and staying home when you are sick.
Fifth disease is one of the most common and contagious childhood illnesses. Fortunately, it usually doesn’t make a child very ill.
The disease got its name because it was fifth on a list of historical classifications of common skin rash illnesses in children.